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Diana Garber
Diana Garber
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Fed Adds Color To Bills To Stymie Counterfeiters

The next generation of $100, $50 and $20 bills will feature background colors designed to thwart bill counterfeiters.

In an effort to deter counterfeiting, The United States Treasury and Federal Reserve announced that when the new Federal Reserve notes are released beginning in Fall 2003, American currency users can expect more colorful bills filling their wallets.

Nexgen, the name for the next generation of United States currency, affects $100, $50 and $20 notes. The new notes will remain the same size and use similar portraits and historical images as the previous bills. The new designs will, however, include subtle background colors. The color itself is not a counterfeiting device, but it provides the opportunity to add additional features that will make fake bills more noticeable.

"We all want to stay ahead of the technology curve by working together to introduce security features that enhance securities of U.S. currency," said Marc Connolly special agent at the Secret Service

Other security devices being added will be announced closer to the bill design unveiling.

In addition to new anti-counterfeiting devices, the Nexgen series will keep the current security features that are already incorporated in the federal notes including watermarks, security threads that glow under ultraviolet light, micro-printing and color-shifting ink that changes color when the bill is twisted.

Thanks to advances in computer and desktop printing technology, the amount of counterfeit money created on computers has grown from .5 percent in 1995 to 39 percent in 2001. It's this increase in "at-home" counterfeiting that has led to new currency security measures. "Because of advancements in technology, we'll have to redesign currency every 10 years," said Jim Hagedorn, spokesman of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

No matter how much work is put into creating harder counterfeiting traps, nothing will prevent fake notes from circulating unless the public is informed of how to spot them. The Secret Service has the responsibility to teach the public how to identify fake notes. "They particularly focus on bank tellers or retail people, people in those areas," said Hagedorn.

Connelly agrees and said that public knowledge is extremely important because one of the principal problems is that many times counterfeiters do not even reproduce the security features in the bill and the note still circulates. "The general public is the first line of defense against protecting against counterfeited notes," he said.

However, there is a limit to what any government agency or person can do to stop false replication of currency. "There is no such thing as a counterfeit-proof document," said Hagedorn. "If someone puts their mind to something there is almost no way to prevent the counterfeiting of money. What we do is try to deter it as much as possible, keep it to a level that law enforcements can round them up and in the meantime maintain the publics confidence and trust in the currency system."

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